Egyptian cotton is well known around the world for its unparalleled quality and strength, and cotton cultivation and processing are large parts of the economy. Demand for cotton, in particular certified organic cotton, is rising globally and Egypt has the opportunity to increase production and take advantage of the export market. However, to succeed, it is necessary that existing quality and sustainability challenges in the value chain are overcome. Such challenges include the current lack of certified products and services, insufficient data on sustainability performance and contamination with chemicals or plastic particles.

To overcome the existing challenges and to fulfil the requirements of international markets, quality infrastructure (QI) services are required. Quality infrastructure is the system comprising the organisations, policies and regulatory framework required to support and enhance the quality and sustainability of a value chain. The QI for organic cotton includes services such as accreditation of laboratories used for product testing, identification of standards that are fit-for-purpose and internationally recognised, and systems to ensure traceability of the final product.

Following on from a successful process in Ethiopia in 2022, in November 2023 our team facilitated a multi-stakeholder workshop in Egypt with the aim of improving the QI services in the organic cotton value chain.

To prepare the process, our team organised meetings and interviews with Quality Infrastructure organisations and our partner organisation, the Cotton Egypt Association (CEA), researched relevant background information, and mapped the value chain.

Stakeholders from public and private organisations were identified and invited to collaborate. We invited representatives from the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) to present the requirements for GOTS certification, the Egyptian National Institute of Standards (NIS) to describe the network of QI services that currently exist in Egypt, and Heinz Zeller from Hugo Boss to discuss the quality criteria required by international buyers.

Our team designed and facilitated two online, half-day workshops as part of a Calidena process, which resulted in identification of gaps, definition of cross-industry measures for improvement, and initiated a follow-up committee to guide implementation of the measures.

The pioneer process resulted in an action plan, which creates the basis for a one-year follow-up by the key stakeholders. The implemented activities will contribute to an increased competitiveness of organic Egyptian cotton on the international market.

This Calidena process was conducted on behalf of the German Metrology Institute, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), and funded by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).